Sharing My Joy

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Just popping back in here quickly to highlight that I’ve created a new page all about my practice of visual journaling. For the past 3 years, this visual and creative practice has been my lifeline. It has not only got my head straightened out but it has also been my playground where big dreams have been declared and explored and come to fruition.

I do look upon this practice as magical. And the special thing is, everything is inside me waiting to come out. Through the use of paints, images, photography, collage, drawings, stamps and stickers, I get to tap into the magic that is inside of me, all the time, each day. No wonder I go all evangelical when I start to talk about visual journaling and share this practice. As it has quite literally changed my life.

Check out the new page in the portfolio and keep checking back as I continue to update it as well as develop the new ecourse to go with it.

Everyone visual journaling here we come.

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Four Months: Friday

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Friday is our last full today together. It is with great sorrow that I have to bring this circle to an end. I hate goodbyes. I usually sneak out in the dead of night, before anyone else is awake, to avoid saying goodbye. To avoid having to look my fellow travellers in the eye and allow them to see how deeply this time with them, this experience has touched me, changed me.

But today, this time, I stand before you and acknowledge how much you have brought and contributed to this retreat. I couldn’t have done it without you. I acknowledge how much our time together has left such an impression upon me. I know I’m not the same person who arrived here just a few days ago to facilitate this holding of space for you.

I don’t want our time together to end, but end it must but I stand before you saying goodbye confident in the feels that you are leaving here also changed; empowered and inspired and more secure in yourself and who you be.

Before we leave, let’s spend one more morning together with our visual journals. Let’s continue the magic one more time as we play with paint, visuals and texts. Let’s share those images of our days together; the sunrises over breakfast, the tears of recognition as we open up to each other, the smells of fresh cooked pancakes and strawberries and chocolate, the laughter late into the midnight sun. Let’s make a promise to ourselves to keep giving ourselves this time and space to think and dream and breathe.

In the afternoon, we drive to
Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon, bordering Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland. Its waters are a strange turquoise blue, still and dotted with icebergs. On one side is a black sand beach. On the other, the route leads to the Atlantic Ocean. As mesmerising as this glacier lagoon is, it’s here evidence of global warming lies. What we do with this knowledge is yet to be decided. But the conversation has begun.

Getting Angry

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Last night I got angry and I mean really angry. I think I might have scared @hazmatt72.

This was a different anger to any I’ve experienced before. No I tell a lie. I think I might have had a glimmer of this deep visceral anger back in 2014 when I was organising #blacklivesmatter events and I was finding my political voice and going public with my thoughts about race.

And then I was silenced and all that anger turned inward. Turned against myself and how stupid I’d been and the mistakes I made. Anger turned up so high that I almost didn’t hear the whisper of self-compassion, forgiveness and love.

Fast forward to last night, the anger has shifted from focusing on myself to sending fierce fire balls out there.

I recently became a member of @secretmessagesociety ( or am I supposed to keep it a secret?!?) and my first Zine talked about developing a back bone. To start putting myself at the centre of my life and everything/ everyone else out there, outside of me is ‘the other’.

At the mention of ‘the other’ I had a gut reaction. A recoiling. As a black woman in colonial, imperial, patriarchal, hey (wo)man, in any kind of discourse, I ‘m labelled/ perceived/ treated as ‘the other’. And even though I have argued against this, this didn’t stop me internalising it. Taking on the label myself and seeing myself as ‘the other’ in comparison to the white norm.

Coming across ‘the other’ @secretmessagesociety, something shifted and was dislodged to the point that I’ve de-centred my whole belief, operating system. I no longer claim ‘the other’ as me, my label, my positioning out there and within me.
No. I’m right bang centre in my life, in my identity and everything outside of me is ‘the other.’ I’m no longer kept in the margins, the minority, the freak, the fat ugly black bitch, the deformed, the other.
I’m so gloriously centred with me/ within me.

And I’m angry. But a shimmering healthy get things sorted, changed sort of angry. Which always flows from love. #iaintsorry #hellno #fuckem #angryblackwoman #othering #decentre #takingbackwhatsmine #practice #process #patience #self-love #self-care #secretmessagesociety #gettingmesomebackbone

My Creative Year in Review – Part 2

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In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year is split into two part,  part one here) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

July offered up the opportunity to share my practice with others as I became one of the women in residence with Idlewomen for a week on a canal boat. This was such an amazing experience, one I was most thankful for as I got to share my love of visual journaling with other women who were in need of a safe space to explore their own voices. I also felt reaffirmed in my desire to support women, particularly black women in their relationship with the natural world.
Hence me putting feelers out there on social media about who was interested in the creation of an Iceland Creative Retreat.

August was downtime as I took the family for a tour of Southern Iceland. It was lovely to return with the family and witness them fall in love with the country just like me. The only problem is now is that they want to return so it might mean I don’t get back there alone ever. But it’s not really a problem as I love sharing my experiences of Iceland.

After the summer break, in September, I came back to business with planning a visual journaling workshop just down the road from me. I also completed an important draft of the chapbook focusing upon black women’s bodies in society due to be published with Culture Matters in 2018.

October was a month of upheaval and change as we were forced to move house and downsize. But it was really a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to declutter, to become more minimalist as well as to prioritise my creativity. As a reaction to less time, I made time to blog more consistently through the move.
I started my next creative non-fiction project around the theme of death. More to talk about around this soon.

November was earmarked as a period of time to settle into the new home but that didn’t go to plan as I did withdraw from social media again but I was still beavering away behind the scenes. I was interviewed by Amanda Fall from The Phoenix Soul, as part of this digital magazine’s Truth Tribe Interviews. I had a soft launch of The Iceland Creative Retreat and filled half the spots. And then I enjoyed a women’s gathering in Pendle Lancashire called Shifting Loyalties when I enjoyed the challenge of sharing my visual journaling practice with over 30 women all at the some time. To be there, to witness this transformation in creativity made my heart sing.

December was time to wind down and get ready for the holidays. I took the time to explore December Reflections on IG hosted by Susannah Conway. With a much needed rest again from social media, I spent the time gained to read as well as fire up the creativity with completing Tara Leaver’s Practical Intuition course to create my own Iceland Oracle Deck. This fed into #IcelandInsights where I am sharing text and images each day in January in relation to my love of Iceland. There are more Oracle Decks in the pipeline for 2018.

So on reflection of 2017, on the whole, was very productive and successful in terms of moving forward with my voice as well as increasing my courage in being present as my authentic self. I hope to build upon the gains made here into 2018. I have learnt that the downtime and rest is just as important if not more so than the productive times. In these quiet moments, conversing with myself, I am learning to listen and observe more deeply and truthfully.

Iceland Insights

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I’ve been thinking of 2018. I’ve been making plans. The New Year will see me visiting Iceland again for a few days. I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. While on retreat in March in Pingeryi, I briefly got to witness some pale ivory lights by down the sea shore. Their movement was magical and sublime. I’m getting ready for more.

In preparation for the creative retreat planned for June, I’ve revisiting in January to complete the final touches also. As a means of getting me in the mood over Christmas, I’ve been creating an Iceland Oracle deck of cards through a course from Tara Leaver. These cards are linked in with #icelandinsights; a photo/ journal prompt challenge I’m running during the month of January.

I’ll be posting images and text each day during January 2018 on IG, Facebook, Twitter and here. And you are more than welcome to join me. Use the #icelandinsights and we’ll be able to find each other.

how to find your voice as a writer

One of my enduring memories of living in London, from my early teaching days, is the icon red bus. Coming up Streatham Hill and terminating at Telford Avenue, where I was lodging, would be the 59 bus, my lifeline in and out of the city, in and out of school in Lambeth Walk.

Those were my bachelor days. I had fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a teacher in an inner city London’s school where the kids were predominately black. I was giving something back to the system at the same time as changing kid’s attitudes about what they could become in life.

Today, I revisit London as a freelance writer and artist for a masterclass titled How to Find Your Voice, with Gary Younge, editor-at-large for the Guardian. I’ve been reading Gary’s articles for years, and have recently dived into his latest non-fiction book, Another Day in the Death of America. I’ve always admired Gary’s words because he doesn’t mince them. His writing is strong and bold. He has the courage to say what other people are not saying about a range of themes including race, America, killings, inequalities, South America, whistle-blowing etc.

I gave up teaching full-time, after coming back to the North-East, in 2003 to pursue a more creative life. In the short time I’d been teaching, the landscape changed so much that I wondered where the teaching had stopped and crowd control had begun. I fancied my chances in the creative wilderness so jumped without a net in sight. With nearly 15 years of hustling under my belt, I’m still questioning what the dynamics of my voice are. What is the purpose of my voice? Hence being drawn to this workshop with Gary Younge.

We do not have just one voice. We have a myriad of voices. Many voices for different contexts, shifting our register and tone depending on what we are trying to say; why we are saying it, when and to who.

Gary Younge recently interviewed Richard Spencer, leader of the emerging Alt Right in the USA for a Channel 4 documentary titled Angry, White and American. He received a lot of flak for giving this racist man airtime, people arguing that this interview was giving him a platform to spread his hate. Gary was of the mind that if you give this kind of man enough rope he’d hang himself. In his opinions, he thinks Richard brought the rope and gallows himself, exposing the absurdity of his thinking, forcing anyone thinking of joining his Nazi bandwagon to think again.

The workshop was illuminating. Things I knew already, but coming from Gary gave them added weight. We all have a unique voice and it’s our duty to bring it into the world. We should write what we want to write without thinking about what other people think we should write. We should get our voices out there and not even bother about checking back in with the reactions. Because we cannot control how anyone else is going to read our words, hear our voice. We can only control our voice; what we want to say and how we say it.

I had the opportunity to ask Gary what he thought was the purpose of his voice. His individual voice. His answer was simple and something I didn’t to hear. He said those words and they dropped right into my gut and got cosy and warm. As those words were welcomed home.

The purpose of his voice is trying to shift the lens. Simple. He’s in a position with a platform, which many people like him would not occupy. He uses his voice to shift the lens on the world to foster understanding and hopefully change.

Trust your voice. Trust your lens. I trusted myself when I left teaching and journeyed into the unknown. I’ve trusted my calling to becoming more creative everyday. Now, I’m getting out of my way to trust my voice.

Each day I am peeling away my former identity to live a more powerful, purposeful and authentic life. I’m a Goddess Queen holding a light, becoming self-aware and self-loving, becoming a wayshower for others.
The purpose of my voice is to shift the lens. It always has been since childhood when I questioned everything my father told me to do. I’ve known this but have been too scared to claim this. Thank you Gary for reminding me. It’s my voice and I own it.

“We younger negro artists who create, now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame,” writes Langston Hughes. “If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If coloured people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.”

Found Poem – Chicago

Things happen in the blink of an eye
I pray to keep him out of harm’s way
I pray to keep him until he’s grown
But there’s a target on his back
And a gnawing hunger in his eyes
No prospects no jobs no hope
I pray to keep him close
I pray against police and gangs
But shots are fired shots are fired
No respect for humanity

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flâneuse

She is the wanderer, bum, émigré, deportee, rambler, strolling player.  Sometimes she would like to be a settler, but curiosity, grief, and disaffection forbid it.” – Deborah Levy, Swallowing Geography.

When I come to think about it, I’ve always been a flâneuse. I’ve always enjoyed travelling to new places and part of my process of getting to know a new city is to walk it. Walking the streets aimlessly, eyes wide open, taking in the newness, the dark corners, the urban green spaces. I usually have less responsibilities while away so I can stroll, wander really till my heart’s content. And I observe the life of the place, observe from the sidelines; an outsider, an ‘other’.

I didn’t see myself as doing anything special, as someone who gets to know the city by wandering its streets, but apparently it is special.  As I am a woman. A black woman.

From the French verb flâner, the person doing the walking is usually male, well to do with time and leisure on his hands.  Born out of the beginning of the 19th century, women walking out in the city streets alone was not possible. And if they did so, they would pass unnoticed, to a certain degree.

I’m interested in why I am a flâneuse. Why I do it? What are the benefits? I’m interested in exploring the streets of my neighourhood with these questions in mind. I would like to get lost down streets that I might have taken for granted or never really noticed before. What would I find I wonder while I wander? And what could I stand to lose in the process?

I begin a new photography series around this practice. Why? Because this is a revolutionary act.

“These women came to the city ( or perhaps they were born there,
or came from other cities) to pass unnoticed, but also to be free to
do what they liked, or as they liked.” – Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City.